No matter how good a team might be doing, we all know it’s never too early to look to next season. So, I’m going to do just that for the Lady Lions.
This is their projected starting lineup and for the 2012-13 season, with what grade they will be in in parentheses:
PG: Alex Bentley (Senior)
SG: Maggie Lucas (Junior)
SG/SF: Dara Taylor (Junior)/Ariel Edwards (Junior)
PF: Mia Nickson (Senior)
C: Nikki Greene (Senior)
Let’s see. Their youngest starter will be a junior. Alex Bentley is one of the five or six best point guards in the nation. Maggie Lucas is one of the very best shooters in the nation and probably the best in the Big Ten. Taylor, a transfer from Maryland who is ineligible this year, is an elite ball-handler. If coach Coquese Washington opts to platoon her with the versatile, 6-foot-2 Ariel Edwards, fans can expect one of the most dynamic guard combinations in the conference. Meanwhile, Nickson and Greene are already very above-average post players, and they’ll only improve as seniors.
Meanwhile, the bench will have two more seniors, another junior, a sophomore, and one lone freshman. That gives the Lady Lions five seniors, four juniors, a sophomore, and at least one freshman. Keep in mind that they’re currently the 19th best team in the nation and a national titls contender as is.
It’s hard to not see that kind of experience, depth and talent make the Lady Lions the runaway preseason favorite in the Big Ten next year.
Just look at the rest of the conference: Ohio State will be old and talented as well, but they’re losing their best player, Samantha Prahalis. Big Ten powerhouse Purdue should plummet, as they’re waving goodbye to six players. Michigan and Michigan State are contenders, but they’ll need to see a lot of development to compete with the Lady Lions.
Nebraska will be the Lady Lions’ stiffest competition, with Jordan Hooper (junior) and Lindsey Moore (senior) challenging Bentley and Lucas for the title of best 1-2 punch in the Big Ten. However, Penn State has more depth than the Cornhuskers and better post players.
After all is said and done in the 2012 campaign, I think the voters will probably end up placing the Lady Lions somewhere in the top eight preseason teams next year. The odds of either Bentley or Lucas winning a Wooden Award in 2013 are pretty good.